Revolutionary, retro, relegated: thought's on Apple's iPod event

By Mike on 8:46 pm

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It it's usual rock star fashion, Apple lifted the lid on its new iPod lines. Pundits seem to agree that there was a little less excitement at this event than past ones. Apple seems to be loosing its edge when it comes to producing something completely unexpected from behind the curtain. That's partially due to a slew of Internet leaks. But, the declining favour in the company towards the venerable iPod has just as much to do with it.

iPod Touch
The new touch is exactly what we expected it to be. It's basically the iPhone 4 without the cell chip. Interestingly, Apple has chosen not to use the new minimalist chassis. Instead, they opted to use the same rounded case style used in past Touches. There's not much to complain about. It features improved battery life, the new retina display, Apple's A4 processor, three-axis gyroscope, front and back cameras, and 256mb of RAM.

UPDATE: I originally reported the new Touch had 512mb of ram, but teardowns show it only has 256mb.

The new Touch: looks like the old but new guts and new cameras

The fourth gen Touch runs iOS 4.1 and, supports FaceTime, and can record 720p video. Apple fans have been calling for a Touch with a built in camera for a long time. But, this camera is limited to just 0.6 megapixels. About equal to a camera phone six years ago. Very unimpressive given the iPhone's 5 megapixel camera.

Aside from that, Apple has also introduced a slightly cheaper 8gb model along side the 32 and 64gb. They start at $229.

iPod Suffle
The third generation Shuffle was a mistake. Apple knows that. The tiny player had no buttons, just a rocker on the earbud wire which used complicated commands. Plus, you couldn't use third party headphones with it..

The new fourth generation Shuffle is a blast from the past. Apple has gone back and resurrected the design of the of the 2007 model. The click wheel has made a return. It's a little smaller. The wheel now takes up the entire front. Button controls are a welcome return for fans of Apple's smallest and cheapest player. It starts at $49.

iPod Nano
This is the one redesign that has everyone talking, and not for the good. It's the most radical change the mid-sized iPod line has ever seen. The fifth generation gave people what they wanted with their Nano. A bigger screen and a standard definition video camera. All was good. The sixth generation took that away.

The new Nano looks like a Shuffle on steroids. The device is only slightly larger than it's little brother. While it has a small touch screen, it's actually a lower resolution than the older model.

The new Nano: touch screen, not much else

Apple has really taken the knife to the Nano. Gone are video recording, video playback, and even the photo album. The FM radio tuner and Voice Over are still there. Apple hasn't added anything at all to the device. They've only made it smaller. Heath nuts are already complaining about the lack of physical buttons.

The new Nano is a glorified iPod Shuffle. Despite slashing back its features, Apple still wants $149 for it. That price is much too high for what it is. Apple's competitors have it matched or beat, at a lower prices.

iPod Classic
The Classic is a dying breed. The last ancestor of the original iPod didn't even get a mention. It's looking more and more like Apple will eventually phase out this model. It's sad for fans who enjoy it's beefy hard drive space. As it stands right now, it's the only non-touch iPod that can play photos and video. But at $249, it's not exactly the best value anymore. If you want one, get one while you can. Apple will dump it sooner or later to focus on the Touch as its flagship line.

The iPad can print now. That is all. Well, it will once iOS 4.2 is released in November of this year. Aside from Flash, this was probably the biggest feature Apple omitted from the original OS. Despite having a word processor and photography apps, I guess Steve Jobs figured nobody would ever want to print something from it. Unfortunately, printing is wireless only. So if you don't have a wifi enabled printer, you'll need to set up a print server.

The iPad will also get AirPlay, which allows it to stream photos, videos, and music from iTunes. It will also get all the other features of iOS4.

Apple unveiled iOS 4.1. It's biggest new feature is the Game Centre. Game Centre will allow players to connect with their friends and others to play multiplayer games online. It's Apple's answer to the Playstation Network and Xbox Live. The iPhone and Touch have needed a unified online gaming system for a long time.

Apple also claimed to have 50% market share in portable gaming. I find that a little hard to believe. Not everyone who owns an iPod Touch uses it to play games. Though, there is a shred of truth if you factor in highly casual titles.

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